Risks and Representation in Fiction

Yesterday, I talked about (but barely skimmed the surface on) the issue of Erasure in media. It’s a problem, and one I’d like to tackle in my stories.

Which is terrifying from a social standpoint because…

  • I’m a middle-class straight white woman, which affords me some privilege that can’t be overlooked and means I’m more than a little ignorant on certain social issues. A lot of social justice bloggers on tumblr have shed light on these issues, but I’m still far from being an expert on any of it. Which means…
  • There’s a lot of room for SNAFU’s, offending scores of people, and generally making an ass of myself. None of which I particularly enjoy doing.

It’s also terrifying from a writer standpoint.

Let me explain you a thing.

I’m grappling with a decision (well, a LOT of decisions really) regarding a project of mine. It’s a big project, in the literal, figurative, terrifying and thrilling sense. I know I’ve blogged about it before, but I think I’ve kept it straight-jacketed and muzzled for fear of saying too much.

Well, I’ve gotten tired of saying too little, so to hell with that. Super Secret Project has a code name for now : STARS. If my instincts are right about it, it will be a 12 book series centering around the lives of 12 women. More NA than YA. I have rough ideas about who each of them are. Of course, some make themselves known more readily than others. So there are a few I know better than the rest…

But I’m trying very hard to focus on one girl in particular at the moment. The first one. Or at least, the one in the first book.

And I have an opportunity to do some really COOL THINGS with her character and for said cool things to be super meaningful because of the theme and symbolism the books center around…

But it could also potentially piss off a lot of readers. Including the one’s I’m trying to reach.

It’s especially daunting because this would be the first book in the series. The one that most readers will start with and let determine whether or not they pick up the next 11 books. Will the HEA (or HEA for now) crowd feel cheated and decide not to continue with the rest of the series if one MC -the first MC-doesn’t fall in love? Because they’ll assume the other 11 don’t, as well? Even if that’s totally not the case?

That’s just not a crowd I want to alienate or piss off, man. I know my own, we can be very unforgiving.

But at the same time, one of the big cool things I want to do with these books is show that there’s no wrong way to be a woman. We all have different needs, wants, desires, and they are all valid and good. (You know, except when they’re not. Because hey, I need antagonists.)

So is it worth the risk?

My instincts say yes.

I think it’ll depend on the way I decide to market the books. Kait Nolan hit the nail on the head yesterday in the comments: the key is really just to not trick anyone into believing they’re buying something that they’re not. So I’ll have to strike a delicate balance with, not only her theme and how I’ll handle her, but the blurb, cover, etc.

Ever thought of taking some big risks with your stories? What were they? Did you go through with them and how did it work out for the story?

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One thought on “Risks and Representation in Fiction

  1. Absolutely. I’m taking a risk with introducing themes to pivotal people in a very important book. When I took these two our of the Bible, I didn’t want them to be holier-than-thou. I wanted them to be human. Humans of a modern day. With the decisions my MC has to make, it’s not going to be a favorite.

    I’m taking two very important people and making them human. I don’t know how it will fair with readers. People can take thing very personally. But I want to unnerve them, to make them realize the ultimate darkness and lightness of humanity. Because that’s what these two characters represent. They are the beginning of humanity, of the realization of Good and Evil so, yes, I’m going to anger some people.

    Still going through the motions. Trying to find the best way to go about it. More to suit my book than to readers. Cause I want this book to be just as much as a realization as a story.

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